The chairman of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on the Middle East urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cooperate with John Kerry in advancing Middle East peace.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is touring the Middle East with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), and met Sunday with Netanyahu and his defense minister, Moshe Yaalon.
The senators also toured an Iron Dome anti-missile facility in southern Israel. The system, credited with reducing damage from rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, is largely funded by the United States.
“During the meetings, Senators Kaine and King reaffirmed their strong support for the U.S.-Israel bilateral security relationship, including U.S. military assistance and intelligence sharing,” a statement from Kaine’s office said.
“Senators Kaine and King expressed full confidence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and urged the Prime Minister to continue his cooperation with and support of Secretary Kerry,” the statement said.
There have been tensions in recent weeks between Kerry and Israeli Cabinet officials over his plans in the coming weeks to present a proposal for a framework peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu and others have strongly rejected elements that reportedly will be included in the proposal, including sharing Jerusalem and handing over security in the Jordan Valley to an international force.
Kaine and King met Monday with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister and top peace negotiator, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Kerry, who is in Abu Dhabi, is scheduled to meet with Abbas on Wednesday in Paris, reportedly at the request of the secretary of state, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.JTA